By on February 6, 2013

BMW’s 3-Series is always the benchmark, always the target, and always on a pedestal. So when GM announced Cadillac would once again “complete head-on” with BMW’s money-maker, the world yawned. Then an interesting thing happened, publications started fawning over the ATS, proclaiming the 3-Series has met its match. Could such a thing be true? Even our own Michael Karesh was smitten by the ATS at a launch event. To find out how the ATS matches up with its German rival, Cadillac tossed us the keys to a loaded ATS 3.6 AWD. Can Cadillac beat BMW at their own game? Let’s find out.

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Exterior

While the ATS fails to make a dramatic new statement of Cadillac’s “Art and Science” design, it is the most balanced rendition of the form to date. Compared to the 3-Series, the ATS strikes a more aggressive pose in the parking lot thanks to the hard lines and aggressive stance. Up front, Cadillac has kept the bold angular grille we’re used to, but ditched most of chrome bling found on other Cadillacs. Out back you’ll find a short trunk overhang with a perky tail light/spoiler and “mini-fins.” You may laugh, but I think the resurrection of Cadillac fins and funky tail lamps are some of the best touches on the ATS.

Does that make the ATS better than the 3 on the outside? Not for me, but your mileage will vary. The ATS is undeniably more expressive, flashier and aggressive compared to the plain-Jane A4, dowdy C350 or the elegant (but very reserved) 3. Oddly enough it’s BMW’s understated elegance and limo-like proportions that do it for me. What does that mean for you? If you’re a traditional BMW 3-Series shopper, then the  ATS is more likely to be your thing. If you’re after a soft entry level luxury sedan but the ES350 is “too FWD”, the 3′s long hood, soft suspension and graceful lines will seal the deal. In my mind the 3 and the ATS tie in this category.

Interior

The ATS wears, hands-down, the best production cabin GM has made. The styling may not be your cup of tea, but the interior possessed none of the strange quality concerns I noticed in the new XTS. Does that mean the Caddy has the best cabin in the segment? No, that award still ends up a tie between Audi and Volvo. However, the ATS’s cabin is nearly the equal of the 3-Series. Why nearly? It’s all about consistency.

Everything inside the BMW’s cabin is of a similar quality, from buttons on the dash to the headliner, everything is exactly what you expect from a $30,000-$55,000 car. The ATS on the other hand is full of “highs and lows.” Caddy’s highs include perfect dashboard stitching, comfortable seats and an excellent tiller. Sadly the gauge cluster didn’t get the memo. Instead of the SRX’s funky new three circle gauge cluster, buyers get the frumpy base gauges from the “this is your Grandfather’s Cadillac” XTS. Still, it would all have been OK if Caddy had offered the XTS’s  gorgeous full-LCD cluster as an option, but sadly it wasn’t to be. In our Facebook page’s weekly “hit it or quit it” contest, the ATS’s dials received a unanimous “quit it.” The fervor even spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. What was all the drama about? Check out the day/night comparison below.

The ATS is available in an impressive array of interior colors, something lacking in many European sedans. While our tester arrived wearing a Germanic black-on-black-on-black ensemble, a quick trip to my local dealer revealed (thankfully) that the tasteful red and black interior and light grey interior with brown dashboard and door treatments were easy on the eyes and plentiful on the lots. Another rarity I noticed is a passenger seat with the same range of motion as the driver’s seat making long journeys more comfortable for your spouse.

When it comes to seating and cargo hauling, Cadillac benchmarked the last generation 3. As a result, front and rear accommodations are comfortable but snug with leg room coming in several inches behind the 3 and A4. The trunk also comes up short at 10.2 cubes vs the 12.4 cubes from the A4 and C350 or the ginormous 17 cubic foot trunk in the BMW. While the ATS represents huge strides in quality from GM, the tighter quarters and lack of consistency shown in cabin trappings gives the BMW the edge in this category.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Today’s compact luxury sedans come with more computing power than a 1990s dorm room. While the Euro players favor infotainment systems driven by a knob and button array, Cadillac has followed Lincoln’s lead with a 100% touch-screen driven interface called “Cadillac User Experience” or CUE. Caddy makes the system standard on all but the base 2.5 and 2.0 turbo models of the ATS although base shoppers can add it as a $1,350 option. The heart of the system is a gorgeous 8-inch LCD. Up till now, most touchscreen systems have used the older “resistive” touchscreen tech which uses a soft, matte plastic surface to detect digits. Displays like this (MyLincoln Touch uses this type of screen) can easily scratch and images can look “fuzzy” since you are viewing the image through the touchscreen layer. Cadillac stuck out their neck and used a more expensive “capacitive” touchscreen with a hard surface that is easy to clean, scratch-resistant, and delivers graphics that are crisper than any system I have seen to date. What was Caddy’s muse? Think iPad.

Cadillac tossed in “natural” voice commands for the entire system (including USB and iPod control), three high power USB ports (capable of charging an iPad), and smartphone app integration. If you want to know more about CUE, check out the video at the top of the review.

In comparison to BMW’s iDrive, the ATS’s touch buttons and iPadesque operation wow for a while, but proved less elegant and less reliable than iDrive after the first few hours. Keep in mind that CUE is in its first release while iDrive is the product of a decade of software development. The difference shows. While I haven’t seen iDrive crash since 2002, CUE crashed several times during the week. In addition, “multi-touch” gestures for “zooming” the map sound cool, but the response time was slow and the process proved more aggravating than useful. Cadillac’s mapping software is a notch below BMW’s in terms of visual appeal and the system just isn’t as intuitive as the latest build of iDrive.

Cadillac counters their “youthful” software with a bevy of standard and available features that you won’t find on many of the non-BMW competition including a full color heads up display, magnetic ride control, cross traffic alert, dynamic cruise control, collision prevention, and front and rear automatic braking in low-speed parking situations. When all the bells and whistles are tallied, the number comes out even, but BMW’s more elegant software gives the Bavarians the edge.

Drivetrain

Competing with the 3 properly, means offering your wares globally and providing a range of small displacement and turbocharged engines. As a result, the drivetrain chart for the ATS starts with a brand-new high-compression 2.5L direct-injection four-cylinder engine designed to battle BMW’s budget 320i. While GM tells us the same engine will find its way under the hood of the Malibu and Impala, Cadillac’s version gets a power bump to 202HP and 192lb-ft with a high 7,000 RPM redline. While this is the engine of choice for rental cars and lease specials, it competes quite well with BMW’s discount 320i with 180HP and 200lb-ft of torque.

Competing with BMW’s 328i (and costing $1,805 more than the 2.5) is GM’s thoroughly redesigned 2.0L turbo. The direct-injection mill packs a serious punch with 272HP and 260lb-ft of twist compared to BMW’s 240HP and 255lb-ft. While Cadillac’s torque curve isn’t as low as the German’s, Cadillac has kept their curb weight low ringing in around 40lbs lighter than the 328i. The difference is small but shows Cadillac was paying attention.

If six cylinders is your thing, Cadillac will jam their 3.6L direct-injection engine under the ATS’s hood for an extra $2,200. The 321HP six-pot cranks out more HP than BMW’s 3.0L turbo I6 (300HP) but delivers less torque (274lb-ft vs 300lb-ft) and of course the lack of a turbo means the 3.6L engine has a torque peak instead of a plateau. Once again Cadillac counters by being lighter, this time by 94lbs.

Regardless of your engine choice, all engines use the same 6-speed GM automatic transmission. If you want to make your BMW owning friends scratch their heads, this is essentially the same transmission used in a variety of BMW 3-Series, X1 and X3 models before BMW started buying the ZF 8-speed. If you opt for the 2.0L or 3.6L engines, Cadillac will drop their AWD system ($2,000) or a Tremec 6-speed manual into the ATS, but sadly the options are mutually exclusive.

As much as I like BMW’s torque-happy 3.0L I6 turbo, Cadillac’s naturally aspirated V6 sounds better. The BMW is still faster to 60 (thank the torque deficit), but the ATS ties with the BMW in my book thanks to the combination of a great sound, no turbo lag and excellent power delivery characteristics. The small turbo match up is more cut and dry. GM’s turbo four cranks out more shove and matches the German mill in terms of refinement. Meanwhile at the bottom of the pile, BMW’s base 320i engine provides more useable power than Caddy’s base engine, but the 2.5L four has a better sound, no lag and is eager to rev.

Refinement and aural sensations are one thing, balanced performance is another and this is where the ATS shines (just not in a straight line). The ATS’s moves on the track are defined by several things: a suspension that is firmer than the sport line 3-Series, excellent weight balance, 225 width rubber on all four corners and “only” six forward gears. Starting with the transmission, while it has a negative impact on MPG numbers, having fewer gears translates into less “hunting” while craving your favorite mountain road. That brings us to the suspension and tires. You’ll find plenty of 335i “sport line” models on the showroom floor with staggered rubber (225 in front, 255 out back) which gives you a bit more traction in the rear for stoplight races. The unequal rubber also causes the 335 understeer a bit more when taking a corner sans-throttle, a situation most drivers find more predictable than oversteer. The ATS on the other hand is extremely neutral in almost every situation. Cadillac’s AWD system turns the moderately “tail happy” ATS into an Audi-esque corner carver sans Audi’s nose-heavy tendencies. Last, and least, the ATS’s steering feel matches or exceeds the feel in the 335i. Why least? Because anything with EPAS is going to be rubbery and numb. If you hadn’t guessed by now, the ATS is the performance winner.

According to my tally sheet, the ATS is one point behind the 3 as we enter the final stretch: pricing. The ATS starts at $33,095 and the new 320i undercuts it at $32,550. If that sounds bad for Cadillac, BMW cuts corners by making leather a $1,450 option among other “decontenting” tricks. For most shoppers the ATS 2.0 is going to be the starting point at $35,795, at which point the ATS is lower than the comparable 3-Series ($36,850) both on paper and at the check out counter. Load up your ATS to the gills with a V6 and AWD and you’re talking $54,000, about $4,000 less than a similar 335xi. Toss in inevitable GM discounts and cheaper financing, and the ATS is the value leader.

Checking back with the tally sheet reveals a dead heat. Is this where the import biased press says “being German gives the 3-Series an extra point“? Not quite. I’m going to resort to an entirely different cop-out: it depends on what you’re after. Huh? Personally, the ATS falls just sort of “beating” the 3-Series, but that’s based on my preferences. If however you’re a BMW fan boy who thinks the new (F30) 3-Series has gone soft (Trust me, it has. That’s why I like it.), the ATS is your “new” E90 BMW. Think of it as E91 by Cadillac. Seriously. The ATS drives like an E90 with a naturally aspirated engine and a slightly dulled steering response. What then is the ultimate driving machine? With BMW succeeding as the “new Mercedes” and Cadillac trying to be the new BMW, your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing I know for sure however: it’s a day to remember when we can talk about a BMW 335 and a Cadillac in the same sentence without any irony.

General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.92 Seconds

0-60: 5.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.66 Seconds @ 103 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 598 miles

 

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68 Comments on “Review: 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD (Video)...”


  • avatar
    Dsemaj

    I AM SO SICK OF ALL THE ANTI-GM BIAS ON THIS WEBSITE, ITS A WONDER WHY GM EVEN GIVE YOU THE CARS IN THE FIRST PLACE!

    …oh, wait.

    As a BMW driver for the past 5 years, I’m glad that I’m not upgrading my E39 to an E60. Granted I’m a second hand buyer, but after driving an E60 545i (with Active Steering) I was shocked with the combination of numbness and sheer effortless. With so much grip, and being way too quiet, it felt like the car didn’t even need you to drive it. This made it so unexciting and irrelevant this side of the Autobahn.

    Whatever happen to the Ultimate Driving Machine? I guess BMWs are all now for posh b(w)ankers and clueless housewives that don’t care about the blend of luxury and performance that BMWs give. As long as that roundel is on the front…

    • 0 avatar
      mypoint02

      I have both an E39 and an E60. I had read some not so glowing reviews on Active Steering, as well as reports of reliability issues with it, so I specifically searched for one without it. The steering in the E60, even without AS, is much lighter than the E39. I don’t find it to be numb though.

      I enjoy both cars for different reasons. The E39 is more of a drivers car – raw, stiff, demanding. The E60 is far more comfortable and quiet. It has much better creature comforts and is more comfortable over long distances. I don’t find it any less enjoyable – just different. It’s nice having a choice between the two.

      Us enthusiasts are a dying breed though. I think the reason we’ll never see another car like the E39 is because that’s not what the majority of people want these days. They want something quiet with a ton of electronic gizmos. BMW knows this and has tailored their product mix accordingly.

  • avatar

    I personally don’t believe many people will cross-shop the ATS and 3-series. When you buy a car like this, I believe a large factor is name brand loyalty. I’d like to see a survey taken of all the people who actually buy one and see if they:
    #1 considered buying a 3
    #2 would consider buying a 3
    #3 considered buying a C-class or A4

    #2. The 3-series has grown so much, that ATS feels painfully small by comparison. The backseat and trunk specifically.

    #3. Unless you buy the most expensive trim of the ATS, you don’t have access to the sport suspension and some other options.

    #4. This car’s base engine isn’t what it needs. It needs the 3.6-L to really fly. Unfortunately, neither engine sounds particularly awesome.

    #5. The ATS and XTS finally have interiors worthy of a top end American brand. Too bad the plasti-touch panels for the C.U.E
    system aren’t very responsive. Same goes for Lincoln.

    #6. GM never goes whole-hog on anything.
    Why can’t the headrests be powered?
    Why aren’t the waterfall cushions (thigh supports) powered?

    BMW DOES THAT.

    Even HYUNDAI does that (because they copied BMW)

    I’m not a BMW Fanboy. I leased an XJ-L instead of a 7. I liked the 7′s handling, but not the driver space.
    All I’m saying is that “what’s right is right”. BMW’s level of refinement won’t be challenged by Cadillac any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      hf_auto

      Both my father and I cross-shopped the ATS and 3 series (as well as the A4, G37 and IS). Your last point on refinement is dead-on, and it makes a big difference at this price point. The a-cluster in the ATS made a huge negative impact when I sat in the car. Then there were the trendy, and awful, capacitive “buttons” on the center console. The plasti-chrome interior trim quickly started reminding me of rental-spec Pontiac G6s. The overall impression quickly becomes “overly styled, but pretty damn solid first effort”.

      I think this is an excellent car, and my second choice in the class, but when I drive the 3 all of the subtle details come together in a way the ATS can’t match (yet). While I wish the new 3 was a little sharper, the fact is I’m not paying $45k for a track car and the 3 is sporty enough, especially with the dynamic handling package that brings back some of the E90-ness to the steering. The ATS can’t win this battle with engines and handling alone. The ATS would have to be priced like a 300 for my decision to swing that way.

      (Disclosure: I’ve owned both GM and BMW cars and been very happy with both.)

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        +1: Cross shopped the 3 and the ATS and was impressed by how much more fun the ATS was to drive. However, the interior refinement made the ATS a non-starter at that price point. However, GM is just a few interior changes away from something that is better for driving enthusiasts than a 3 series.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    What’s the go with GM’s adherence to the Cruze like centre console? In a Cadillac I’d expect something more bolder and different. This, unfortunately, makes Cadillac look like a trim level, not the pinnacle of GM’s wares. At least Holden could differentiate between cars with different interior treatments, not constantly “blinging” up the same console by adding brightwork This Cadillac looks great outside and cheapens itself interior wise.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I know that gas struts have issues of their own, but looks to me like they could gain almost 2 cubic feet of trunk space by using them…

    Nice car, though – if *some* of this car’s DNA ends up in the ELR, and I hit the PWRBLL, there could be a Caddy in my driveway :-)

  • avatar

    Because of past reputation Cadillac should have reached higher. To take on a giant like the 3 series, it is not good enough to match the beast. To make folks notice and wallets open, GM should have achieved the impossible. In other words, nice try, but no cigar

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I just had a similar discussion with my brother. I agree Cadillac should be aiming higher, but the brand has been underwhelming for probably the last fifteen years. The one thing I have to give them credit for is noticing BMW had/has been upsetting so many of their purists, and RenCen may have been looking to offer something very similar to E46 to this market, which is what ATS was modeled after/copied from. The long term GM strategy may be to continue to offer BMW-like driving dynamic and feel while the real BMW continues to water down its offerings. BMW as a brand is chasing volume, Cadillac who traditionally chased volume from 1970 to now, may sit back and try to turn Cadillac into a more exclusive or profitable brand (as it was prior to 1970) and leave volume to Buick/Chevy.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        Agreed. GM has this advantage over BMW – the use of Chevrolet and Buick to achieve volume – and shouldn’t hesitate to use it to make Cadillac more exclusive.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The 3G CTS will be even better within its segment (too bad the rear end of the new CTS looks awful; the front end looks real good tho).

    • 0 avatar
      fps_dean

      If I was GM, I would have taken $1 profit per car just to be sure to blow the competition out of the water and make sure everyone knows it. The next time, BMW and Mercedes would be trying to match Cadillac not the other way around.

      The ATS looks like it’s a perfectly fine car and if you prefer it to a 3/C class, that’s perfectly understandable but for someone coming from behind in the small car game, that’s not going to be good enough.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Man are those gauges awful. If you’re going AWD, for the high performance shopper the choice is still the S4, though admittedly it’s expensive. In terms of interior execution, honestly I think you’re a bit off. The B8 A4 really isn’t that nice inside. The seats are rock hard, and the center console is all plastic with buttons that aren’t particularly nice to touch or look at. Additionally, the way most A4s are equipped, the buttons just end up being blanked off panels anyway. For an Audi it’s a disappointment.

    The S4 at least gets proper seats, but the rest of the interior problems are still there. IMO Audi blew it, Mercedes caught them with the refreshed C-class (the first version was HORRIBLE inside) and I think the new 3 is nicer, though admittedly not perfect. Volvo I just don’t get at all. Sure the seats are great, but the rest of it, bleh.

    Luxury cars are supposed to out do their more mainstream brethren in electronic abilities, but it seems like Chevy’s MyLink is BETTER than CUE, which is extreme stupidity on Cadillac’s part. Also, don’t say your system is iPod inspired if it performs like a $150 Walmart bargain tablet. Your customers probably own iPads, and just using a capacitive screen won’t fool them into thinking the performance is anything other than crap.

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler’s Uconnect Touch 8.4n is hands down THE BEST infotainment center on the market. Everything from the natural speaking technology to the full touchscreen with redundant steering wheel buttons and hard controls directly beneath were brilliantly executed.

      Both ford and GM’s capacitive touch panels SUCK.

      My Jaguar XJ’s voice control is finnicky and you have to speak very clearly, specific commands – and most of the time you’ll be misunderstood.

      As far as tactile controls, Mercedes COMAND was the best – allowing me to simply rotate a dial for access to my seat, my passenger’s seats and the nav, radio and climate control – without needing to take my eyes far off the road. But now, the lack of a touchscreen makes all the luxury German cars feel incomplete compared to the Chrysler’s.

      The WORST device I’ve used thus far is that “mouse” in the Lexus 2013. I actually demonstrated in a review of it how bad it is – especially when driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Davekaybsc

        Total agreement on the Lexus mouse. I have no idea what the heck they were thinking with that. The computing world is moving to touch and gestures, and Lexus went in the total opposite direction, basing their system on a device that’s been around since the late ’60s. Amazing that a company that back in 1998 had the most advanced in car tech on the market has now fallen to the bottom of the barrel. I actually would consider the GS if it weren’t for that dumb mouse.

      • 0 avatar
        dave504

        The CUE has an ace up its sleeve in the fact that it is Linux-based. I expect it won’t be long before there’s a full-featured file/web/email server, Netflix, Youtube, Facebook, streaming porn, torrents, cloud storage, emulator to run MyLincoln Touch, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        “My Jaguar XJ’s voice control is finnicky and you have to speak very clearly, specific commands – and most of the time you’ll be misunderstood.”

        Try speaking with a British accent (Liverpool?), Guv.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I would agree that Audi blew it on the interior of the current A4. My understanding is that the focus of the current (B8) A4 was the new MLB architecture with its substantially improved dynamics, chassis, balance and suspension. The interior was carried over from the A6/Q7 as a cost savings measure.

      The next generation A4, the B9, should be showing its face about a year from now, and will be based on the MLB-EVO architecture to further reduce weight. The other goal of the program was to counter criticism that all Audis look the same, so expect some more significant differentiation in the next car, both inside and out.

  • avatar
    dave504

    Pricing is almost completely irrelevant in this segment. If Cadillac wants to be competitive, they need to work on their leasing strategy to compete with the 4-banger vinyl seat BMW’s.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I totally agree, the price is just for advertising fluff, in the end most of these will be leased. Caddy threw out a $299 lease to move them, and I think that is going to help get a bunch of them out there for others to notice.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    One can’t help but wonder: If there wasn’t a 3-Series to benchmark to the last millimeter, would the ATS be this good? Does GM have a position of Chief Competitor Imitator? And if they did, would they then transfer him off the ATS-successor for the next generation, per usual? I any case, it’s nice to see something from GM declared a worthy competitor.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    Now that is what this site should strive for. An honest review that us both informative and Nice to read. Bravo on the great review on a fantastic car.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    “Cadillac stuck out their neck and used a more expensive “capacitive” touchscreen”

    Really? Doesn’t that mean the Caddy driver has to take off his gloves to work the ac/heat/radio/etc?

    • 0 avatar

      And therein lies the problem with the CUE system.

      The Chrysler UCONNECT system did it right by having a Touchscreen to control the NAvigation, radio, HVAC, seat heating/cooling and steering wheel heating. THEN THEY HAVE REDUNDANT HARD BUTTONS and KNOBS.

      The only problem I have with the 300/Charger is they don’t have hard buttons for the seat heating/cooling and steering wheel. When I get in my SRT8 in the winter, the first thing I do is turn the HVAC heat all the way up and then activate the seat heater. I wouldn’t want to have to take gloves off to do this. The JeepSRT8 does have the hard buttons and touch screen redundancy.

      Furthermore, if your hands are wet, the system doesn’t function properly.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        My 2013 SXT has remote start and you can set the driver’s side seat heater to automatically come on when you start the car. It’s in the settings

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        dw, his SRT is a little older, without the 8.4″ touch screen. You’re right though, my 2013 R/T also sets the heated or cooled seats automatically when remote started based on ambient temperature. It’s nice to climb into an already piping hot heated seat in the dead of winter.

      • 0 avatar

        dwFord… my SRT8300cSupercharged is a 2006.

        While I know about the auto-on features, I still feel it’s better to have a plastic button you can press to activate certain functions – especially those you’d normally have wet hands when trying to operate.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      That is correct. But then again, any touch screen is going to be tricky to use with gloves on.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I’d know MOST reviews don’t cover this, but IMHO I’d like to see what “dealer” 15k/30k/60k/100k service prices are.

    IMHO You spend much more on gas & parts/servie than the initial price of the car (well — at least I do…).

    Other than that: nice review!

    • 0 avatar
      hf_auto

      Good point. It’s worth mentioning BMW comes with 4yr/50k miles of free maintenance. The Cadillac guy couldn’t tell me whether or not a maintenance program was part of the deal. In general, I was underwhelmed by the Cadillac dealer experience- my local BMW dealer was far more professional/respectful.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree on that. When test driving 3-series sale person was very polite and knowledgeable about car and tried to demonstrate best qualities of the car. When I went to Cadillac dealership I was greeted by Afgani immigrant who was pushy, did not care and did not know much about car and in the end insulted me because I did not intend to buy car right away. I will never visit this particular dealership again and think hard about even test driving or purchasing any Cadillac. It they want to hire people from 3rd world they have to train them properly – it is not Chevrolet and it is America after all – we have choices.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Looking forward to driving a 2.0 with 6 speed.
    Newer 3 series look so cheap. As I approached one from the rear, I tried to figure out which Korean company had so crappily copied it, and was shocked to see it was BMW.
    Just a huge blob of shiny red cheapness without integrated exhaust or additional lights. Nothing. Germany can do plain beautifully, but it is done by Audi. I was amazed at the S5 convertible at the auto show. (pics)

    Those guages are bad. Like looking at an Saturn SL or Prelude from ’92.

    “While Cadillac’s torque curve isn’t as low as the German’s, Cadillac has kept their curb weight low ringing in around 40lbs lighter than the 328i. The difference is small but shows Cadillac was paying attention.” This sentence reads as if it was only 40lbs heavier. I think this is huge for Cadillac. In turn, BMW will have to reduce weight and add back steering feel, which will ensure future ATSs will be still better.

    Looks like quality, has distinction, drives like an old BMW in its prime. This is a winner.

  • avatar
    mikenem

    I feel like the Infiniti G gets neglected in these kind of reviews. Isn’t the G37 the closest anyone’s ever come to unseating the mighty BMW 3? The long time leader of this segment. Even though it lacks the refinement, a few reviewers have recommended the InfiniG over the 3 based on reliability and overall value. I’d like to compare the Infiniti to the Cadillac…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The current G is old hat to the media. Expect to see the Infiniti offering back at the top of the comparos with the redesign that’s on it’s way. The Q something-or-other.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    The way this started out with the styling comments, I thought it was going to be just another “GM drops the ball” review, but then I was pleasantly surprised. I think this was very well written and completely fair, even though the Alex preferred the BMW that preference didn’t affect the fairness.

    There will always be people that buy BMW for the brand name, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a Cadillac, there is no getting around that. But the other competitors in this segment are also good, so the ATS has to be good to compete with them for buyers. I can see people considering the Lexus or Infiniti or even Audi cross-shopping the ATS. The fact that the ATS equals or even beats the 3-series in so many categories will help dramatically in that situation. It is important for Cadillac that people feel goof about getting an ATS, and not just because it was cheaper.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Given used Caddy prices around here, in two years when this thing is selling for less than half its new price, it will be a hell of a buy.

  • avatar
    mjac84

    I’ve been a longtime lurker on TTAC, but I think I can make a contribution here.

    I leased an ATS 2.0 RWD (automatic) Performance about 2 months ago. I wouldn’t call myself a car ‘enthusiast’ but like most of you, I’m not like the many Camry-contented Americans. This is my first non-manual transmission car.
    I shopped for a luxury sport sedan because my new job came with a pleasant, but long (140 miles round trip) commute in the NYC area. My sports car preferences (I used to have an RX-8) generally didn’t allow for a quiet enough interior to have a comfortable business conversation at 85 mph.

    I cross-shopped and drove everything in the segment. 335, 328, A4, G37, Volvo S60, Buick Regal GS, et al. I honestly never thought I would end up with the ATS, or any domestic for that matter. My mom has a 2012 CTS which I really didn’t find to my taste. But the minute I slipped behind the wheel of the ATS for a test drive, I knew it was the one. It has great balance, a fun and responsive 4-banger, and a modern interior that appeals to someone like me (28 yrs old).

    The interior is quiet, the technology is good, but most importantly, it has a *special* look and feel. Its hard to quantify, but the headlamp arching over the wheel wells, the illuminated door handles, and the way the CUE faceplate motorizes up with a simple touch to reveal a secret storage bin are all interesting features that communicate to a consumer like me that the people who built this car really cared to be innovative.
    It surprises you. A family member who took delivery of one of the first 2013 Mercedes G63′s 3 months ago sat in the red and black interior and said “nice fake carbon fiber.”
    “Its real, actually,” I replied.

    It’s not often that a domestic car allows for that kind of riposte.

    Now, it isn’t without fault. The CUE has a slow graphics chip, and response time is annoying. If I used the car’s GPS instead of the one on my iPhone it would matter more (WAZE App, anyone?). I think the turn signal stalk is too thick. And I hate the fact that my iPhone 5 for some reason doesn’t transfer to the car’s bluetooth system on an incoming call – I need to press on my phone to have it switched to the car.
    But other than these minor gripes I’ve been very happy.

    And to the much-maligned gauge cluster. I bet there is a designer at Cadillac that is ripping his hair out over all of the negativity over it. True, having cutouts is a dated design element; but what Cadillac has done here is remarkable. Take a look at the blue to black fade from the center to the outside of the CUE screen (both within the cluster and in the center stack). Now take a look at how the gauge cluster recreates the EXACT same color fade not with a screen, but with carefully placed lighting. That, my friends, is a neat trick, in creating a blue-black shadow and why, in all likelihood, you have the gauge cut-outs.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Personally, I liked the gauges at night, but really disliked them during the day. My commute is only in the dark a portion of the year and I think that would bug me long term. Cadillac should have offered their excellent LCD cluster from the XTS in the upper trims of the ATS, that would have solved everything.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I have to say I don’t understand the hate for the gauges at all. They don’t look that different from the gauges I have in my C-class.

      Looks like a nice car and thanks for.the great review. It’s awesome to see Cadillac making its way back.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    V6 manual sounds like the hot ticket for the enthusiast. Still not feeling the “EVERY CAR MUST OFFER AWD” meme.

    I’m glad there are some interior color options, wonder if Cadillac will let you order just about any interior with any exterior color? That could result in some crazy contrasts.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “Still not feeling the ‘EVERY CAR MUST OFFER AWD’ meme.” Totally agree.

      The spec that actually appeals to me would be the basest of base models:
      - The 2.5 has more power than I can use in the real-world traffic I face. (Not begrudging anyone else’s desire for the more powerful engines.)
      - I’d be able to avoid CUE.
      - I’d be able to avoid run-flat tires. Idiotic decision by Cadillac, IMO, to follow BMW’s “lead” by equipping the 2.0 turbo and the 3.6 V6 cars with run-flats.

      I imagine purchasing such a car would require a special order; I can’t see a dealer’s having one on the lot.

      [Update: Thanks, mike978. File me under \"L\" for \"lazy.\" Interesting to see that the 2.5 apparently is more than a fleet model or a tool for allowing Cadillac to quote a low base price in ads.]

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Looking at my local dealer inventory 10 of the 27 ATS’s in stock were 2.5L models. So they seem to be available across the spec range.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        I like the 2.0 with 6-speed RWD especially since Trifecta has an ECU tune for it that will put it at V6 320 power or more with more torque. The limited slip is comes with it along with the magnetic shocks. Not sure which version but lease deals are coming down to match the 2.5 if you are a torque junky like me. Though I’m not a fan of the chrome on the instrument panel it is indistinguishably a Cadillac which sets it apart from the Buick Turbo Verano/Regal GS, albeit with the new 2.0T not used used in any other GM car at this time.

    • 0 avatar

      A V6 manual would be interesting, probably more to say that they can do it then for actual sales. Sort of like the G37 S 6MT or TL 6-speed. Two people bought them, but it was there and that matters.

      As for AWD? Country-specific. Canadians don’t want RWD especially again, so given the opportunity will often opt for AWD if those are their two choices. For example: Almost every G from the 2007-2013 model range is an AWD model, despite the fact that either was available.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    So wait you can get a V6 with the manual? I thought I had seen somewhere that manual was only available with the 2.0t engine. I’ll have to double check Cadillacs site when I get a chance. If so, that is wonderful news. I can’t believe the best enthusiast choice for a sedan may actually be a Cadillac, even if that may say more about how bad BMW and Infiniti have gotten vs how good Cadillac is.

    EDIT: you may want to correct this. I just checked Cadillac’s site and they do not show the 6 speed manual being available with the 3.6. As the only option for 6 cylinders, RWD, and a manual, the 335 (unfortunately) wins by default, not because it’s necessarily that good.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Five years ago, I bought a G37S that I expect to keep indefinitely. If I were shopping again, the ATS would be a stronger candidate than any of the Germans. My big dilemma would which of two drivetrains to select — V6 with AWD or 2.0 turbo with six-speed manual. It would come down to which felt better.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Or wait for ATS-V with some sort of forced inducted V6. The entry level V-series will do battle with AMG, M, and S from the Germans with a twin turboed or supercharged V6 expected to be just north of 400 horsepower. If GM does this setup in AWD the M3 boys might actually have to take notice.

  • avatar
    ScottE5

    11:20 in … No flinch visible at the wheel. No stammer audible in your voice. Just one continuous, even-handed review.

    You, Alex, are a smooth operator. Worthy of praise, indeed.

    Although perhaps not as smooth as Farago, who would have swiftly applied the ATS’s mighty Brembos while grasping for the Glock smartly placed on the creamy leather passenger seat, eyes fixed with laser-like precision on his bounding target and then punting the door off its hinges, executing a tightly-wound barrel roll to the shoulder and swiftly neutralizing the white-tailed threat as it attempted to flee into the woods and reunite with its evil herd.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’m starting to think the ATS (or just Alpha as I call it) is just what the doctor ordered for Cadillac. Needs a standard V6 and to be available in coupe/convertible though, hopefully a coupe that doesn’t make me vomit as the Catera, excuse me ‘CTS Coupe’ coupe does. Art and Science, like a kidney stone, has thankfully passed RenCen. You confirmed it with the ATS’ subdued styling, now come up with something good.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Let’s also remember this is the first honest, serious attempt by Cadillac to build a competitor for the 3-Series. You can think of the A in ATS as standing for “Alpha”. It’s not easy to go up against 38 years of evolution and refinement (and “softening”), but that’s exactly the hill Cadillac has to climb.

    You mentioned consistency in the interior. If GM/Cadillac are serious about hanging with BMW & Co., they’ll have to show that in subsequent generations of the ATS. We’ll be seeing a third-gen CTS soon. The first-gen was leaps and bounds above the Catera. The second-gen was leaps and bounds above the first-gen.

    Caddy needs to keep it up with the Kaizen.

  • avatar
    carguy

    There is no doubt that when it comes to driving enjoyment that the ATS has overtaken the 3 series but GM still need to work on two items before it is ready to take on the 3-series at its own game:

    1. Interior ergonomics should trump gimmicks such as touch screens and LCD gauges. Bring back buttons and knobs and rework the gauge cluster.

    2. Work on fuel economy. While it wasn’t mentioned int he review, both the 3.6 and 2.0t are well behind the competition.

    In all other aspects, however, the ATS is a great car.

  • avatar
    Viceroy_Fizzlebottom

    Looks like updates are coming for the CUE system, Cadillac just hasn’t said exactly when.

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/02/cadillac-cue-update-coming/

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    I don’t know why journalists always give IDrive a pass. Maybe it’s because it’s been around long enough that most journos have gotten used to it? In truth, it is a clunky system with lots of menu switching needed to get things done. Also- the way of the world is trending towards touchscreens. The BMW still uses that wheel that requires you to spin the wheel when you think you need to move it like a joystick, and vice versa.

    Also- what is up with a $33k+ car not having height adjustable seat belt anchors?

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Nice to hear that the “areas for development” on the Caddy are all things that can easily be changed. Gauges, interior trim, even the center stack can all be swapped out at MCE time. CUE can always be upgraded via software updates. The fundamentals — suspension, steering, performance — are solid. Thank God!

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    The gauges are awful. They look like one of those telephones for old people who cannot see. This car isn’t bad, with the power of the 3.6L in the smaller sedan, it is sort of a Muscle Car, which is a good thing. However, I’d still rather have an A4 in the segment.

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    But what about the reliability of Cadillac?
    Is it more or less reliable than BMW 3-series?

  • avatar

    Thank you, Mister Dykes, for this excellent review. It was enlightening and enjoyable, and (unlike the print rags) came with the disclaimer that it was all about preference.

  • avatar
    stuki

    “……….GM discounts and cheaper financing, and the ATS is the value leader.”

    Even compared to the notoriously high residuals BMWFS uses for lease calculation at least some months of the year?

  • avatar
    SteveRenwick

    Nice article. But, you know, guys, the Bay Area has many locations that are much more photogenic than the top of the BART parking garage. I’m just sayin’.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Is that Millbrae BART station?

  • avatar
    mcc.pj

    You know the worst thing about the ATS’ cluster? That damn ‘Phil Collins’ gauge.

  • avatar
    glwillia

    Very solid effort, but that interior needs some work. Looks too much like a Hyundai Sonata with a gauge cluster from a ’97 Pontiac Grand Prix.

    Personally, if I were in the market for this kind of car, I’d do a Certified Pre-Owned E90 328i with the sport package, manual transmission, and naturally-aspirated inline 6.

  • avatar

    I love the interior, but I don’t think that the entirely-black color scheme does it justice. I’d have to opt for a different color, like red or brown…

  • avatar
    ohiodale

    Based on style, this car does nothing for me. Both the interior and exterior are to contemporary and could easily be considered out dated in a couple of years. My opinion is subjective and in no way would I argue with those who like the styling.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Why in the hell is this more expensive than a GS350 F Sport? Really Cadillac?


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